Having patience has always been very hard for me. And so, even with a few weeks left before Jay starts daycare and I get more time, I really have to will myself to accept the state of things. Even if I love Jay. Even if I chose to stay home to help Char whose hand is, unfortunately, worsening.
She is seeing a specialist doctor for the hand next week and until then we do the usual things – she buys massages and laser treatments in the city, and I help carry Jay around as much time as possible at home. Otherwise little has changed, now that Char is back with Jay from her little ‘leave’ at her brothers’ house, down south. The days are routine with house work and baby work, shopping, cooking, playing, laundry and trying to catch up. I am still first choice to go walking the pram since Jay can best sleep there during day and I have said it should be like that, since Char is taking him most of the night, because she still breast feeds.
There’s a trickle of work for customers, mostly old customers, who write in to ask for this or ask for that on their websites. And as agreed we agree for me to take some time for them, when it fits with the home front – so to speak. And hour there – two there. And so on.
As I think I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t have much spare time for myself during my home stay, maybe an hour during a day – often chopped up in little bits. I could have more in the evenings, if and when Jay sleeps well and is not teething, but I am usually deadtired at around 9 PM. Must be my age showing …
So it is a bright light when I manage to cram in a little writing, and as I keep going this route – never taking my eyes off this project’s goal and never wavering in the decision to keep going … when the timing is right and I have the time and at the same time Feel Relaxed and Energized writing … well, then all is well.
Although I do long for days with more time to choose how to use, even if those days are close by – and even if I know I have to go back to work and earn, and that each hour taken from those hours will be potentially a costly one.
Still, I should not forget that my recent story-endeavor is an investment, too. Right now it is an investment in my peace of mind, because I only write when I can do so and truly relax, as emphasized above and in other posts.
I also know that I feel this project is something I can continue for years until I have many stories in that universe. And that even if I don’t, for whatever reasons, it will not matter. I am not writing for fame or fortune, anymore. I can say this honestly. I have gotten rid of all that. I am only writing to give myself energy at the moment and because I always come back to the fact that storytelling is a part of me. I cannot NOT do storytelling in my life. It is something I have to do – somehow.
And fine that I post it in a forum and get some readers and cheers at the same time. It is what works for me, instead of sitting alone with it for months.
So it is all about the process now, and what writing gives me in the now. I can say that with clear honesty for the first time in years.
And that feels damn good.
Chapter 5: The Summer Family
The English Embankment no. 231
12 AM noon, 8 November 1917
Nikolai Vasilyevich Bolkonsky had actually decided not to open the main door and see what was going on out on the Embankment. They had all heard the commotion at the dinner table and the screams, and they had all looked at him and he had kept his seat.
As the eldest son of the house, at 18, and as a junior-sergeant and assistant instructor of the cadets at the Nikolayevskoye School of Engineers, certain things were expected of Nikolai. One of them was calm in the face of all changes and uncertainties that swept over the motherland in these difficult days.
“Must be those Red traitors again,” his mother, Illiana Bolkonskaya, had said while consuming the last of her chicken slowly and deliberately. Usually at this time of year it would have been turkey or some better meat, but the chickens of the neighbors’ yard were all the meat they had left. (And since the Petrovs had fled, they did not deserve them anyway.)
“Do you think they are robbing the neighbors’ houses?” Pierre asked excitedly, looking first at his mother then at Nikolai. At 13 Pierre had only just started out on the most basic cadet training, but already had great ambitions of leading armies in the field and fighting against all enemies of what was good and right. Starting at home …
“Don’t be silly,” Natasha said to her young brother – before anyone else could answer him. At 16 she was a shy, soft-spoken girl with delicate skin, dark curly hair and bright alert eyes. And she had learned well enough to always be alert for a family situation to defuse. “It must be some of the poor men fighting in the streets. You know they do that sometimes over the bread Natalia leaves for them at the doorstep.”
“She should not leave so much bread for the beggars,” Illiana remarked and downed the rest of her wine. “As a servant of the house she should think of this house first.”
“It will be good then … if things quiet down and everything returns to normal,“ Vasily Bolkonsky remarked quietly, while staring at his own wine without drinking, “then we will not worry about whether or not ‘Talia leaves some breadcrumbs for the poor.”
“You mean when things return to normal,” his wife corrected him. “These Bolshevik boors can’t possibly win. They are all just … louts.”
“So you say, so you say, dear … “ Vasily replied with a sigh, more to himself than to Illiana. “I only wish we had sent Natasha and Pierre to uncle Markov yesterday while there was still time.”
“I wish you would stop that moaning about the children,” his wife said and poured more wine to herself, “you are making them soft and fearful – like yourself.”
Vasily did not reply. He only reached out to ruffle Pierre’s sandy hair a bit, but quickly. And then he looked ponderously into his own glass once again.
Pierre had stopped himself from talking more, although it was his fondest wish to go over into the houses of the Petrovs and the Chernovs and all the others that had been abandoned. Maybe he could not find any robbers there, but he would have done his duty – to check for some. And it would be more exciting than all the waiting …
As if guessing his thoughts, his mother looked him straight into the eyes and said: “And you, Pierre, will go to your room now and continue with your studies. I will come up and check on you soon. You, too, Natasha. That will be a lot more productive than all this nonsense talk of robbers … ”
“Perhaps … “ Vasily began but stopped himself, too, as Illiana sent him a deadly look. The children pulled out their chairs, bowed politely and went upstairs. Natasha led the way.
Nikolai had listened carefully to all of this – the usual routine. He had not commented. He agreed wholeheartedly with his mother, of course, and thought his father much too timid – as usual. But he also took his responsibility seriously. If his father did not wish to act like the master of the house, and keep up that morale which was paramount to get through this, then he – Nikolai – would have to be that stalwart center of faith.
Then he rose from his chair:
“Thank you for this most pleasant meal, mother. You must give my compliments to Natalia. She can do anything with … anything.”
He would have said ‘meager resources’ or some such, but Nikolai decided it was best not to remind his mother anymore of the fact that their food stocks were dwindling rapidly. Petrograd had been closed to the world for days and long before that there had been shortages.
The latter had only been a problem for the poorer neighborhoods until recently, and certainly not the people living in the mansions on the English Embankment. But since the Bolsheviks had taken over more and more it had gotten worse.
And now … the Winter Palace … Nikolai reflected as he went downstairs to the hallway. I should have been there, but perhaps it is for the best. We can defend ourselves better in the Engineer’s Fortress until reinforcements can arrive.
He knew that Kerensky had gotten out of the city (or at least had not been captured along with the rest of the cabinet). What that man would do was uncertain. Nikolai had never held him in high esteem. If only Kornilov had succeeded in taking over … that would have been better for the country!
But what Nikolai did know was that there were formations of Cossacks near Petrograd, led by General Krasnov. And he was not in doubt they would storm Petrograd and have a good chance of taking the city back.
After all, the socalled “Red Guards” were nothing more than unorganized rabble … with no true military training. It was only luck and probably the Germans who had helped them get this far.
That and the sorry state of the Motherland after all this war which had been forced upon her by the Prussian militarists. To think that some will stoop so low as to undermine the Motherland in her hour of need … but there they were: The Red traitors.
So Nikolai and his men had had to keep a low profile until now, pretend things were normal. But in a few days everything would be ready for the counter-strike. And that would give General Krasnov time to get ready, too. Then those who still had faith and heart would strike back and the Bolshevik blot would be wiped away from Russia, starting at Petrograd.
Nikolai hesitated briefly as he put his hand on the first of many locks on the main door.
He remembered his firm decision at the dinner table not to check the streets to see either nothing or the same sight as he had seen so often these past few days – some derelict’s body, frozen after the night.
Why did they seek out shelter and food here? Perhaps because that stupid Natalia Ladovna was giving them bread …
He might have to talk to the servant woman about that, if his father would not.
Nikolai could hear nothing outside, except a faint autumn wind coming down along the promenade, where he and his siblings had spent so many wonderful summers, playing, frolicking and enjoying life.
Yes, those summers … he thought, and felt a brief stab of longing.
He would give anything to get them back and to be able to give them to his own children, when he had some. But duty first, and then Alexandra Kutuzovskaya, who would still wait for him in Kiev as she had written – passionately – in each and every one of her letters …
He was about to open the door after clearing the last lock. But then he stopped once more, and unholstered his pistol. He did not draw it, though, but he knew he could – if need be.
That need would soon be revealed.
Nikolai Bolkonsky opened the door.